DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co.'s U.S. light-vehicle sales rose 6 percent in October from the year-earlier level, led by sales of crossovers and pickups -- particularly the Explorer crossover and F-series pickup. The gain, to 167,502 units, lagged the industry's 8 percent rise in October.
For the first 10 months of 2011, Ford's total sales rose 9 percent to 1.9 million.
In October, Ford division sales rose 13 percent to 161,408, and Lincoln sales fell 11 percent to 6,094.
Weak Lincoln car sales dragged the automaker's overall car sales down despite a slight rise in sales of Ford-brand cars.
Ford's increased production of the Focus compact car paid off. While total Focus sales in October were nearly flat vs. a year ago at 12,386, its retail sales -- excluding fleets -- rose 4 percent.
"The Focus has done very well in that segment, which is a very challenging segment," said Ken Czubay, Ford's vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, during a conference call. "The growth in that segment has improved by 50 percent since the summer months. The Focus is on plan with both improvements in segment share and the pricing."
Erich Merkle, Ford's top sales analyst, said Ford's average overall transaction prices are "healthy."
"We're up a few hundred dollars compared to the whole industry, and the industry is up year-over-year as well," he said.
The estimated industry average transaction price last month was $30,487, according to TrueCar.com. That's up from $29,097 a year earlier.
Sales of the Fiesta subcompact rose 7 percent to 4,124 last month. Ford sold 18,094 Fusion sedans in October, a 4 percent lift from a year earlier. But sales of the Taurus sedan dipped 1 percent, and sales of the Mustang slid 8 percent.
Trucks, crossovers have an edge
Demand for crossovers and light trucks remained strong in October, after a solid September. Czubay said he expects demand for those vehicles to be strong through year end.
Sales of the Escape crossover rose 31 percent to 19,046. Explorer sales more than tripled to 11,987.
Sales of the Edge crossover slid 10 percent to 9,161 last month. But Czubay said the Escape and Explorer are not cannibalizing sales of the Edge.
"The Escape is number one in its segment, and the Edge and Explorer are each in the top three," Czubay said. "Of course, we'll see some cross-shopping, but we're very pleased. Consumers are voting with their wallet and placing them in the top three."
Czubay said consumers have been cross-shopping the Escape and the Fusion more readily. That's because the fuel economy is improving on both vehicles "so the value proposition equals out," he said.
The F-series had another strong month with sales up 7 percent to 52,511. More than 40 percent of the sales mix consisted of the direct-injection turbocharged V-6 EcoBoost engine option.
'Very adequate' supply
Ford had about a 70-day supply of total inventory at the end of the month with 141,000 cars and about 313,000 trucks, Merkle said.
Merkle said Ford is in a good supply position: "We're very adequate and well-positioned going forward."